My Dad is from St. Louis, so needless to say, we were eagerly anticipating the start of the World Series last night with the Cardinals versus the Red Sox. We made yearly pilgrimages to visit family (drove from NC to MO) and always spent an evening at Busch Stadium. In addition to having a space in my heart for the St. Louis team, having lived in NYC, it’s virtually impossible to find anything redeeming about a Boston team, so the allegiance is easy to maintain!
In these times of sporting trials, I tend to turn to food, namely a theme food. I decided that I needed to make a Gooey Butter Cake, since they originated in St. Louis. I have made the Paula Deen version with the cake mix and it is delicious (linking to the pumpkin version because it is fall and that is what I made). Although the Paula Deen version is fast (and dirty), my internet research yielded another, more traditional recipe with yeasted dough. I was just in luck because Deb at the Smitten Kitchen tried her hand at it. Oh, this was going to be great.
I started the process last night, just about when the starting pitch was thrown. Obviously, the game was a massacre but perhaps because my fabulous Gooey Butter Cake had not been consumed by two fair weather fans in Tucson, AZ. The cake was finished after the game was over, but we were the true winners. Nate wants me to be clear that he thinks that this cake is one of the best desserts I have ever made and it made him do the happy dance. If you are afraid of sweet (hi, Mom), this is probably not the dessert for you. But, as a yeast-avoider (as in I avoid using it), don’t be scurrred. You can do it. Obviously, you need some time to make it all happen, but once that dough is rising, go make dinner or something while the dough does its thang. I used high quality vanilla and I could really taste it, so that would be a strong recommendation.
Also, I read to heed a warning on the type of pan used. Because I live on the wild side and I have limited resources, I used a metal pan and set the time for 25 minutes. My oven runs slow, so I needed about 7 more minutes in the oven and the topping was plenty gooey. We like gooey, so I knew it would be fine. When I took it out of the oven, it immediately began to sink and crust over on the top. Science. The edges are key! They taste like chewy, classy, custardy heaven. Make this for someone who is suffering heartbreak, because they will forget.
St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake
3 tablespoons half and half at room temperature, or slightly warmer (around 110 degrees F)
1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
Gooey Butter Topping:
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Confectioners’ sugar, for sprinkling
Butter, for greasing the pan
In a small bowl, mix half and half with 2 tablespoons warm water. Add yeast and whisk gently until it dissolves. Mixture should foam slightly. I gave it 1 tablespoon of the sugar to feed it a bit. Remember to subtract this from the total 3 tablespoons of sugar for the dough.
Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat in the egg. Alternately add flour and the milk mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition. I beat this dough with a dough hook on medium for about 10 minutes, until it started pulling from the sides of the bowl.
Press dough into a greased (with butter) 9-by 13-inch baking dish at least 2 inches deep. I used a metal 9×13 and it worked for me. Cover dish with plastic wrap or clean tea towel, put in a warm place, and allow to rise until doubled, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
Gooey butter topping:
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
In a small bowl, whisk corn syrup with 2 tablespoons water and the vanilla. Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat in the egg. Alternately add flour and corn syrup mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition.
Spoon topping in large dollops over risen cake and use a spatula to gently spread it in an even layer. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until it has a golden top, but still gooey in the center. Don’t worry if the cake immediately sinks when you take it out of the oven. The magic is happening. Try to stop yourself from cutting into it at that moment and allow the cake to cool in pan before cutting and sprinkling with confectioners’ sugar for serving.
Enjoy and GO Cardinals!